11 Best Toddler Car Seats
Just like that, the rear-facing infant car seat you so painstakingly researched and purchased to bring your little bundle home from the hospital will soon be too small to hold your toddler. While this milestone may bring on a few tears (from you), it’s an exciting change for baby, who can now soak up all the action—and see what Mom or Dad is doing up front—in a forward-facing car seat.
You already know car seats save lives, so investing in the right one can make all the difference. But let’s face it, upgrading to a toddler car seat comes with a host of new questions: What’s the best toddler seat? What safety features should I be looking for? When can I switch to a forward-facing car seat? If all this brings back fond memories of putting together your baby registry, don’t stress. We have the answers to help you choose the best toddler car seat so both you and your littlest passenger can have a smooth ride.
Types of Toddler Car Seats
The good news: There are primarily two kinds of toddler car seats. See which one makes the most sense for your family before you begin shopping.
• Convertible car seats. This may be the most popular option when transitioning from an infant seat. In fact, some parents forgo the infant seat altogether and opt for a convertible seat with an infant insert. One of the best features of this type of toddler car seat: it allows your little one to remain rear-facing for longer (which is the safest way to travel under the age of two, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics). Once baby reaches the rear-facing height and weight limit, the seat converts to forward-facing; some models also transition to booster seats. The one drawback many parents note, though, convertibles tend to be on the heavy side, so you’ll want to consider how often you’ll be taking this in and out of the car. Check out our best picks for convertibles here.
• Forward-facing car seats. Once your child is age 2 or reaches the rear-facing height and weight limit (around 40 pounds), experts say a front-facing car seat is a great option. The thing parents love most? How easy it is to interact with your little one and keep an eye on her from the rearview mirror.
Toddler Car Seat Safety Tips
Whichever best toddler car seat you choose, you’ll want to make sure you’re using it correctly every ride.
Rear-facing toddler car seats
- Position the harness straps at or below your child’s shoulders.
- Position the chest clip at the same level as the armpit.
- Make sure the seat is installed properly and securely, either with a LATCH system or a seatbelt.
Front-facing toddler car seats
- Your child should at least be 2 years old.
- Position the harness straps at or above your child’s shoulders.
- Position the chest clip at armpit level.
- If you’re able to, always use the top tether. This strap is attached to the top part of the car seat and connects to an anchor point in your car (check your vehicle manual for the tether anchor location).
Best Toddler Car Seats
Here, 11 top toddler car seats that meet the needs of every family and budget.
Best Front-Facing Car Seat
Britax Frontier ClickTight
This best toddler car seat has a long list of impressive features that even get gear snobs excited: an EZ buckle system that holds the belly pad out the way when loading and unloading your little one, nine harness height adjustments, two buckle positions and a removable cover for cleaning. Most impressive is the ClickTight installation system, which opens the front panel of the car seat, buckles the seat belt across and clicks shut, all with the push of a button.
In front-facing car seat mode: from 25 to 90 pounds; 30 to 58 inches tall with a five-point harness
In booster seat mode: from 40 to 120 pounds; 45 to 62 inches tall
Buy It: Britax Frontier ClickTight, $255, Walmart.com
Best Toddler Convertible Car Seat
Graco 4ever All-in-One
The name says it all. This best car set for toddlers can be used from birth until your kid is 120 pounds! Parents…